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Tigers' unbeaten run ends with defeat at Quins

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Leicester Tigers suffered a first defeat in 10 Aviva Premiership matches after losing 24-20 to Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday night.

Tigers led 10-0 early in the game after Vereniki Goneva finished off a sweeping move to score his 11th try of the Aviva Premiership campaign. Toby Flood landed the conversion to add to his second-minute penalty.

Quins fought back through a penalty try and with Nick Evans and Toby Flood landing their kicks the sides went in level at 13-13 at the break.

The hosts took the lead for the first time through Nick Evans’s penalty as the game entered its final quarter before Tigers hit back with a second try through Jamie Gibson, converted by Flood.

But with both sides down to 14 men following yellow cards for Pablo Matera and George Robson, Mike Brown’s score at the left corner swung the game in Harlequins’ favour.

Flood and Anthony Allen returned to the Tigers back line and there were also changes in the front row with international props Marcos Ayerza and Logovi'i Mulipola either side of Neil Briggs at hooker.

Tigers won a penalty from the kick-off. The game was eight seconds old when Flood’s kick was knocked on and collected by Quins hands and Flood landed his kick from the right to give Tigers a 3-0 lead.

Scully contested the restart with Nick Easter and was ruled to have pulled the former England international down in the air. Quins went for the corner but Tigers defended the drive well and wrapped up the ball to win the scrum put-in.

A delayed pass by Flood put Ed Slater through a gap on halfway. He had Jordan Crane in support who moved the ball to Goneva on his left shoulder to score under the posts from 40m. Referee Tim Wigglesworth consulted television match official Sean Davey before awarding the score. It was Goneva’s 11th in the Aviva Premiership and made him the leading scorer in the league this season as Tigers led 10-0 after four minutes.

Danny Care threatened an instant reply with a tap penalty after Tigers infringed at a scrum. However, he was stopped by referee Wigglesworth for taking it from the wrong position. Instead, it was left to Nick Evans to kick for goal and the former All Black landed Quins’ first points after seven minutes.

Quins then launched a length-of-the-field counterattack led by Mike Brown. The Quins full-back chipped over last-man Scully into the Tigers 22 where Goneva came across to clear to touch.

It signalled a period of Quins pressure in the Tigers A zone, as Leicester defended wave after wave of Quins attack. Eventually, Allen came through to poach the ball at the back of a ruck to overturn possession.

But Tigers were unable to find distance on their clearance and Quins kicked to the corner with another penalty as the first quarter came to an end. However, Care knocked on in midfield giving Tigers the scrum put-in on the edge of their 22. Tigers won the penalty at the set-piece and found touch 10m into the Quins half to ease the pressure.

Crane was replaced by Pablo Matera after 22 minutes.

Allen’s long pass created space for Scully to launch a 40m counterattack down the right. Ben Youngs secured quick ball as Quins were offside in front of their posts and Flood extended Tigers’ lead to 13-3.

A break by Dave Ward gave Quins go forward inside the Leicester 22. Slater eventually stopped the hooker but Julian Salvi was whistled for coming in at the side and Evans cut Tigers’ lead to 13-6.

Evans’ grubber kick put Luke Wallace in behind the Tigers defence and through on last man Tait. He half stopped he Quins flanker and with the support of Tuilagi and Allen managed to hold him up over the line.

However, Quins had Tigers under pressure at the resulting scrum and referee Wigglesworth went under the posts to award the penalty try at the first time of asking. Evans’s conversion levelled the scores three minutes before half-time.

There were no changes during the break.

The Tigers pack put a marker down with two scrum penalties in the opening six minutes of the second period.

However, Tigers were penalised at their own lineout on the 10m line but Evans was wide with his kick.

Quins thought they had scored a second try 10 minutes into the second period when Care slid a kick behind the Leicester defence. Scully was unable to collect possession but got back to beat Brown to the ball in-goal. Brown and the Quins supporters celebrated the score but it was ruled out by TMO Davey.

Quins attacked again off the back of the scrum and it took excellent work by Youngs and Allen to hold up Kyle Sinckler over the line.

Toby Flood then intercepted Care’s long pass 8m out but knocked on as he was tackled by Brown.

Quins had enjoyed much of the territory during the second period and they were awarded a penalty at a scrum on the Leicester 22 and Evans kicked the hosts into the lead for the first time in the game after 18 minutes of the second period.

The Tigers response was immediate. A brilliant run by Tuilagi took Tigers to within sight of the Quins line where they were pinged for failing to release in the tackle. Youngs took the penalty quickly but missed Leicester hands only for referee Wigglesworth to rule Quins were offside in midfield. This time Salvi took the penalty quickly, through replacement hooker Rob Hawkins for Gibson to crash over on the right.

Flood landed the conversion to put Tigers 20-16 ahead.

It was Flood’s final contribution and the fly-half was replaced by Owen Williams. Parling then replaced Graham Kitchener as the clock showed 18 minutes remaining.

Both sides were reduced to 14 men with 16 minutes remaining. Matera was shown a yellow for rucking Ward off the ball before George Robson was sent to the sin bin for his retaliation. Scully packed down on the blindside at the next scrum with Easter going into the Quins second row.

A brilliant tackle by Allen stopped Brown on the right as he looked to dart through a gap on the Tigers 22.

However, Brown arrived on the left flank to hold off Tait and Scully to score at the corner to put Quins back into the lead. Ben Botica, their replacement fly-half was wide with the conversion as Tigers trailed 21-20 with eight minutes remaining.

Tigers went down to 13 men a minute later when Salvi failed to release Easter in the tackle before stripping him of possession.

Tigers weathered the storm, forcing a knock on close to their line to regain possession before Matera and Robson returned to the fray.

An infringement at a Leicester lineout gave Quins a penalty 35m out which Botica landed to move the hosts into a 24-20 lead with less than three minutes remaining.

Tigers had one final attack with Tuilagi taking a tap penalty 40m from the Quins line. He appeared to be impeded by Easter but play continued only for the ball to be lost at a maul a couple of phases later.

Care cleared deep as Tigers' run of seven straight victories, and 10 games undefeated in the Aviva Premiership, came to an end.